“The Vienna Glasharmonika Duo, consisting of husband and wife Gerald and Christa Schönfeldinger, is one of the longest established groups wholly devoted to performing music written for glass and their K&K-Verlagsanstalt release Glas & Steine (Glass & Stone) is of an in-concert recording from the summer of 2006. Christa Schönfeldinger performs on a reconstructed instrument that is almost exactly like the glass armonica that Benjamin Franklin invented in 1761 rather than the crystal glasses in a suitcase instrument more commonly used since Bruno Hoffman revived glass music in the 1950s. Gerald Schönfeldinger plays a modern instrument called a Verrophon that consists of a set of test tube-like glasses and contributes three original compositions to the program written in an idiom very well suited to this exotic combination of instruments. The recording, touted as a "Direct 2-Track Stereo" release, is excellent, made at Maulbronn Monastery in Austria, which has superb acoustics.
Although the program includes the expected Mozart K. 617a and arrangements of some other pieces by him, it does expand upon our notions of glass harmonica music. Especially notable is the inclusion of Arvo Pärt's Intervallo, written in open score and usually played on the organ but perfectly well suited to the glass harmonica. Ennio Morricone's Il Gatto is included as a way to vary the sound of the program, which includes some glasses as struck with soft mallets in addition to the usual bowing with the fingertip. However, the most striking piece is Vienna Glasharmonika Duo's transcription of Edvard Grieg's lyric piece Der Kobold, which succeeds well in stretching the boundaries of these instruments, demonstrating that fast passagework is possible and the glass harmonica need not be limited to long, sustained notes, even though that's the kind of musical texture that suits it best.
Track one begins with a lengthy recitation read by Austrian actor Peter Uray, and it is inseparable from the first musical work on the disc. For non-German speakers, this will be incomprehensible, especially as K&K-Verlagsanstalt provides no text, even in German, for the Gottfried Keller poem that Uray reads here. Oskar Werner delivers the text to Gerald Schönfeldinger's original "Wesenlos -- Eine Klangverklärung," which is the most musically effective of his three pieces presented here and heard in a melodrama-style format. Again, the lack of a text is a barrier to fully enjoying this piece, but overall Glas & Steine is one of the most satisfying glass harmonica discs ever. The resonance of Maulbronn Monastery helps take the edge off the sometimes-piercing top notes of the glass -- notable especially in studio-made recordings -- and provides an ambience that is appropriately ghostly and evocative.”
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